Profit AND Purpose Meet in Paradise

B Corps: B the Change

Hawaii’s B Corps Are Protecting the Environment and Improving Their Island Community Through Business

The Hawaiian islands have a growing community of Certified B Corps that are using business to bring about positive societal and environmental impacts. Below are the stories of three B Corps committed to positive economic development that puts nature and people first.


Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) has planted more than 400,000 endemic Hawaiian hardwood trees and transformed nearly 1,200 acres on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island from cattle pastures back to rare koa forests. Using innovative sustainable forestry practices along with state-of-the-art technologies, CEO Jeff Dunster and COO Darrell Fox have shown that the benefits of reforestation are more than just about financial returns. For them, this is an opportunity to make a difference in Hawaii and leave behind a lasting legacy.

HLH is a natural marriage between timber investments and permanent reforestation. Twenty-five percent of the plantings are destined for sustainable timber harvest, while 75 percent is planted for permanent reforestation.

A lone Koa.

A lone Koa.

A photo taken of the same koa tree five years after beginning reforestation plantings.

A photo taken of the same koa tree five years after beginning reforestation plantings.

Koa, a prized endemic hardwood tree, has suffered and populations have dwindled. HLH incorporates koa, along with 23 other endemic species, into its reforestation work. The demand for this tropical hardwood has increased dramatically in the past decade, rising almost 1,000 percent in value.

“This unique business model not only has multiple economic drivers, including timber, food products, ecotourism, and certified carbon credits, but also has key environmental and cultural components as well. Once established, each forest is capable of being completely self-sufficient — not only ecologically, but economically as well. We designed the business with an economic engine to keep things going when markets are good and when they are bad,” says Dunster.

The majority of tree plantings are Legacy Trees for permanent reforestation, which is administered through a spin-off — the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI). Through the Legacy Tree Program, HLRI works with more than 340 other nonprofits, 70 Legacy Partners, and tens of thousands of individual tree sponsors who have helped to make this project successful. HLH started with the goal of planting 1.3 million trees and, together with HLRI, has commitments for another 2 million on top of the 400,000 already planted.

HLRI’s online store, Legacy Forest Gifts, was created for the sole purpose of planting trees. Donors can receive unique works of art and rare collectibles free of charge through sponsorship of Koa Legacy Trees. Items include incredible one-of-a-kind artisan pieces made from rare and endemic Hawaiian woods, including the first-ever limited-edition ukulele crafted entirely from endemic Hawaiian wood, including koa. “These items are not for sale at any price; if someone wants them, they sponsor Legacy Trees. Sponsor enough trees and these treasures are yours as a gift of aloha,” says Dunster.

Each sponsored tree is accompanied by a special certificate of planting, which includes the tree’s unique radio-frequency identification (RFID) number, GPS coordinates, and customized dedications. Timber investors and Legacy Tree sponsors can go online to view their trees. High-resolution imagery and the proprietary RFID geotagging system enable sponsors to track the growth, health, location, and sponsorship details of each tree throughout its lifetime.

Hawaiian Legacy Tours was developed in 2013 so guests can tour the Legacy Forest and plant their own Hawaiian Legacy Trees to honor an individual, commemorate an event or memorialize a loved one. Videos of tour plantings will be forever linked to each Legacy Tree for future generations to see.

“We wanted to be transparent about how our motives were not solely profits, except so much as to sustain the forests and preservation,” Dunster says. “We love the idea of what B Corp is all about.”


Continue reading: B the Change

Joy Miyamoto